- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 15, 2008

The NCAA released its graduation success rate data Tuesday.

Perhaps more than ever, it left Maryland basketball coach Gary Williams exasperated.

Williams’ program recorded a GSR figure of 10 percent among scholarship players who entered school between the fall of 1998 and fall of 2001. Those players made up the bulk of Maryland’s national championship team in 2002 and many went on to lucrative pro careers - a development Williams pointedly makes.

“I’ll say it again: If you can make $6 million, who wouldn’t do that?” Williams said. “We all hope they graduate. What am I, not an educator? … This is the world we live in. Is it wrong for Lonny Baxter, wrong for Juan Dixon, wrong for Drew Nicholas to make a million dollars? Chris Wilcox? What is wrong with that?

“What’s there to say? We had this period where we were really good. This is the price you pay.”

Maryland’s GSR rose from last year’s 0 percent as a result of Mike Grinnon’s addition to the data. The Terps remain last in the ACC, with Duke (89 percent) and North Carolina (86 percent) among several schools well ahead of Maryland.

The GSR includes the performance of students transferring into institutions and does not penalize schools when players depart school before graduation so long as they left while academically eligible.

The NCAA allows schools a six-year window to graduate players for the purposes of its calculations, which Williams believes further skews the data. It excludes the likes of Tahj Holden, who returned to school after his basketball career and graduated.

The data also does not include recent graduates. Anton Goff, Maryland’s associate athletic director for academic support and career development, said five of the Terps’ seven scholarship seniors graduated in the last two years.

Goff said the Terps’ lone senior this season, forward Dave Neal, is on track to graduate in May and everyone else on the roster is averaging at least 30 credits a year and remains on schedule to earn a degree within four years.

However, those developments will not surface in the graduation data for several years.

“If it were done right now, I’ll match our record with anybody in the country,” Williams said. “It’s old news. This has been covered before. We have a great academic support situation now.”

Among other notable basketball teams in the area, George Washington was at 67 percent and George Mason was at 47 percent.

Georgetown was at 70 percent, which ranks fourth in that span in the 16-team Big East.

“Our guys are always progressing toward a degree,” Georgetown coach John Thompson III said. “The NCAA didn’t institute that rule for us. We’ve always graduated players. I’m comfortable with the way we do things, and our president is comfortable with the way we do things because of our history of graduating guys. They’re not just here playing basketball. They are part of the overall fabric of this institution.”

Maryland’s football program produced a 68 percent rate, down from 69 percent a year ago. This is the first year the data includes players from coach Ralph Friedgen’s initial recruiting class.

“I think it will fluctuate from year to year,” Friedgen said. “I think you have to look at it over the whole span. The fact [is] this year’s team has 30 guys [eight walk-ons], and 28 of them should graduate by May.”

*Staff writer Barker Davis contributed to this article.

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